Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Review: Whole Foods'/Byerly's Asian selection

My friends know that I dislike Leeann Chin (the Midwest fast food restaurant chain). I should probably note that I have had some success with their Peking Chicken Stir-Fry (mainly because it has jicama). (Yes, for the most part, these informational links lead you to Wikipedia.)

That said, I complain often enough about Americanized Asian food, although I have gotten accustomed to it. Another complaint that I have is regarding the dearth of vegetables in my entrees at Americanized Asian fast food places. More often than not, I get meat in a tasty brown sauce over my rice. No veggies - unless they involve a (not-so-very) special fungi. That said, I began a quest for vegetables, and for really good - not just edible bordering on vaguely tasty - lemon chicken. Or something to that effect.

I went to Whole Foods first and bought some sweet and sour tofu ($7.99/pound) and teriyaki sweet potatoes ($6.99/pound). Following that, a trip to Byerly's yielded me Big Bowl Chinese Express, in the same spot where Leeann Chin had been a year earlier. And my Big Bowl Chinese Express choice was the teriyaki chicken ($6.99 regular size, $5.79 small).

The sweet and sour tofu was not really typical tofu, but bean curd, a tougher, denser version that explained the more expensive price. It was nowhere near sweet and sour, and not particularly Asian, but was vaguely sweet and salty. The bean curd, because of its texture, did not absorb the sauce but was nonetheless pretty good, especially if you treated the sauce as a light dip. Chopped green onion added flavor, though I wished the red pepper slices were thicker to contribute more sweetness.

The teriyaki sweet potatoes were long, quartered and covered in sesame seeds. They also looked shriveled. Nonetheless, the interior was moist, although some potato pieces were clearly less cooked than others. The teriyaki sauce was slightly sweet and even a little bit spicy, a good complement to the chewy texture.

Finally, the teriyaki chicken. While I enjoy Big Bowl as a sit-down restaurant, its Express chains in Byerly's don't match the main restaurant's flavors. For example, the kung pao chicken on display had a significantly lighter tone than that served in the restaurant. In addition, the entrees are limited, and in particular, none of Big Bowl's noodle dishes are available via Express. Instead, a refrigerated peanut noodle salad was in the case. The teriyaki chicken that I ordered was standard Teriyaki, but the sauce was a little too sweet and rich for my taste. Green peas added color to the chicken, but were few and far between, and didn't soften up the tough texture of the chicken.

My verdict? I would pass on the teriyaki chicken, but I think it's up to you on the teriyaki sweet potatoes and the sweet and sour tofu. Of those two, I preferred the latter; I could see myself becoming bored with the teriyaki sweet potatoes after one serving.

1 comment:

SteamyKitchen said...

I hate Americanization of Chinese vegetables too. Totally mistreated & misunderstood.